Gloria Stuart, the oldest actress to ever receive an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of “Old Rose” in Titanic, died yesterday. She was 100 years old.
Long before Titanic, Stuart starred in more than 40 musicals and horror films in the 1930s—most notably working with English director James Whale, who cast her in several of his films and gave her one of her biggest-ever roles playing Claude Rains’ fiancée in The Invisible Man. Although Stuart worked with many golden-age stars like Lionel Barrymore, Shirley Temple, and Boris Karloff, and served as a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild, Stuart became frustrated with her own inability to break out, and more or less left the film business in the ‘40s to concentrate on her stage work, as well as indulge her passions for oil painting and letter-press printing.
She attempted a comeback in the late 1970s, landing a role opposite Peter O’Toole in 1982’s My Favorite Year, but it wasn’t until James Cameron went looking for a golden-era Hollywood actress to play the elder version of Kate Winslet’s Titanic character that Stuart got the recognition she’d been seeking all her life. Although she lost the Oscar to Kim Basinger (for L.A. Confidential), the attention sparked a minor career renaissance for Stuart, who turned down several “sweet old lady” parts for more unusual turns like playing a bag lady in Wim Wenders’ The Million Dollar Hotel. Her last role was in Wenders’ 2004 film, Land Of Plenty.